The Superbowl of Startups

When I attended Demo I remember being in awe of what I thought of as the Superbowl of Startups.

Here were these companies that prepared months to spend six minutes on stage.

Later I talked with “DemoGods Coaches” like Shel Israel or Nathan Gold. They told me just how much hard work went in behind the scenes. Some teams spent literally months preparing their demos and getting their companies ready for the big day. This year the big day is on Monday.

Each company has spent $18,500 just to get on stage. That part you all know about because of the famous fight that Demo has had with its competitor, TechCrunch 50.

But the Demo Coaches tell me there’s a lot more that goes into it. Many of these companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in time preparing (and hiring coaches like Nathan Gold, who has a few companies in the running down at Demo). They also often bring their entire teams down to both host the booth in the expo hall as well as host meetings in hotel room suites for press and VCs. Lots of deals are done in the back rooms.

This is why I was so harsh to all those sites this morning. This is the Super Bowl. It’s not a little high school recess game. Thousands of people have visited the list already in the past few hours since I posted. It’s at the top of TechMeme. There’s a lot of attention on the list.

Pointing out that these sights suck has gotten me quite a few harsh words in the past few hours. None harsher than Chris Shipley’s post in reply.

My response to her? Because this is the “Superbowl of Startups” Shipley needs to step up the game here.

Here’s a few replies to her post.

First, she didn’t call me before posting her post. So, let’s say she’s right about the fact that I post posts without getting her point of view then she just lowered herself to my level to make a point, which now is weakened significantly because she didn’t practice the higher ethics she says she wants us all to aspire to. More on that in a little while, though, because that really doesn’t have much to do with the Superbowl of Startups, er, Demo.

She wrote: “But seriously, if I cared about startups, I’d be sure there were links in my stories for the convenience of Robert and other bloggers?”

No, that’s not why I said that. Yes, I’m an egotistical baaahhhsssstttaaarrddd, and a lazy one too, but this shows you have contempt for the startups you are trying to help. A link is VERY IMPORTANT. Why? It gets Google juice. For a startup Google juice is probably more important than anything else the conference can do for you. Why? Because until someone links to your site you won’t be found very high on Google, which is where 99% of your customers will come from (not from tech blogs like this one, Shipley’s, or TechCrunch). Having a site like Demo link to you can mean the difference between being on the first page of results vs. being far lower.

Also, a link makes it easier for readers to do. When sites don’t link the things they talk about will see 100x less traffic than if they do link. Yes, readers (and bloggers and journalists even) are lazy. So, throw them a bone. Finally, by not linking you’ll force your readers to manually enter the URLs, which keeps Web sites from getting a good referral (server logs keep track of where visitors come from) so you won’t get as much credit as you’re due.

Anyway, back to what Shipley wrote. Here’s another passage: “When misinformation is propagated out of laziness and inconsideration, that’s hardly informative. It’s not “new school;” it’s No School.”

Um, OK, but did she point out something that I got factually wrong? No. Did she add new information? No. Did she just make it sound like I had gotten something wrong? Yes. Did she succumb to the same sins that she attacked me and Sarah Lacy for? Yes.

So, what did we learn here? Well, we learned that Shipley is disappointed with the coverage she’s getting. That much is clear. But did she take the time, after she had berated us for that coverage, to correct it? No.

And that makes me very sad. Because it’s like Shipley (and her commenters) are stuck in the past where words were printed on dead trees and you can’t argue with them.

This is not a one-way shipment of words. It’s a conversation.

If I say something wrong, or do something you don’t like, you get involved and slap me around for a while and then YOU CORRECT IT. Notice that I’ve linked to Shipley here twice tonight. Over on FriendFeed I passed her post to all of my friends. Same on Twitter. I’ll do the same on Facebook too. That’s a lot of attention that she had, but she didn’t take the time to get her point of view across.

Which brings me back to the “blogging is reporting” meme that she’s trying to get across.

Blogging is NOT reporting. It’s the single voice of a person. When you read me here you are reading me the way I’d talk to you at a cocktail party. You’re hearing my opinions. If I’m doing “reporting” then you’ll know, because of how I source it.

Sorry, I’m not going to call you every time I have an opinion. If you think I should, then you are crazy and don’t understand blogging.

I used to be like Shipley (Tim O’Reilly has voiced the same opinions too). I used to think that you should call me when you write something about me. That’s why I put my phone number on my blog (it’s +1-425-205-1921 — I do answer my phone and that is actually my cell phone that I use every day).

But I was wrong. See, this is a two-way conversation. You write crap about me. Then I can decide to answer you back.

This is unlike any other communication method ever devised by humans. Talk radio? Give me a break. I waited on hold for an hour last night to make a two-minute contribution to KGO Radio. Newspapers? Have you ever gotten a letter to the editor printed? How many weeks did it take? Magazines? I write for one of those and it takes months to get anything into it. TV? When was the last time a normal human being was on TV holding a conversation with someone on demand for as long as it takes? Never. Try getting on CNN sometime and see how easy it is.

But here? You can leave a comment. You can head over to FriendFeed. You can blog. You can Seesmic. YouTube. etc. etc.

Oh, and Shipley says I’m living in the “rarefied air of the echo chamber.” I love that diss. It might have held weight if she had called me and proven that she’s better than me. But, now that she’s shoved the cream pie in my face I’ll point out that none of the hundreds of startups on my show had to pay to get onto my video show. Ever.

Back to the “Superbowl of Startups.” I will relook at each site this week. Unfortunately Demo, for the first time in years, isn’t putting up videos of the demonstrators, so I’ll just be forced to link to other bloggers who are writing about Demo down there and then I’ll have to compare those companies to ones I’ll see face-to-face at TC50. That will probably introduce some bias, but I’ll link to all my work product and other sites and, anyway, if you don’t like what I say you can easily do a Google Blogsearch and find someone else you like better. Luckily there are lots of areas that don’t overlap between Demo and TC50, but where there are overlaps it’ll be interesting to compare the two approaches. I’m sure some will like the Demo approach. Others will like the TC50 approach.

It’s going to be a fun week in the Superbowl of Startups. Let me know by posting a URL here if you’re writing from either of the two conferences.